Biochar as feeding char

In animal hus­bandry and fer­tilis­er man­age­ment

In Europe, 90% of biochar is first used in animal hus­bandry (see Joachim Gerlach, Ithaka Journal 1/2012). Biochar is used in silage, as animal feed, in litter, for manure treat­ment or as a compost addi­tive. In all these areas of appli­ca­tion, biochar is intend­ed to improve animal health, reduce odour nui­sance, improve the quality of manure and, where pos­si­ble, reduce the loss of nutri­ents that are harmful to the climate and the envi­ron­ment.

Euro­pean Quality Level EBC

This is pre­cise­ly why coal for animal feed is subject to strict quality control. It must be free of toxins, in par­tic­u­lar all tar sub­stances and their deriv­a­tives must be com­plete­ly expelled. Last but not least, heavy metals are unde­sir­able in animal feed, which is why the raw mate­r­i­al must also be care­ful­ly select­ed. In order to define a quality stan­dard, the Euro­pean Biochar Cer­tifi­cate (EBC) was estab­lished, which sets the stan­dards for high-quality biochar.

Cascade use of biochar

Par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing and sus­tain­able is the cascade use of biochar in animal hus­bandry and fer­til­iz­er man­age­ment, where the adsorp­tion capac­i­ty of biochar plays an out­stand­ing role.

The process starts

At the begin­ning, biochar is added to the silage, which pre­vents the for­ma­tion of myco­tox­ins. At the same time, pes­ti­cides are fixed and the for­ma­tion of butyric acid is pre­vent­ed, result­ing in cleaner fer­men­ta­tion and a notice­able improve­ment in feed quality.

Health­i­er animals

The biochar then enters the feed via the silage and ensures an improved diges­tion process of the animals. The feed intake is increased, which results in an increase in weight. This also reduces the for­ma­tion of green­house gases

Improved stable hygiene

The biochar is addi­tion­al­ly mixed into the litter, which binds the liquid nutri­ents and reduces ammonia emis­sions. Decay is reduced, which in turn improves stable hygiene. After just a few days, the odour pol­lu­tion is notice­ably reduced..

Making manure “better”

Biochar can also be mixed into the liquid manure, which binds volatile nutri­ents and improves the micro­bial envi­ron­ment. This reduces nutri­ent losses, which improves the fer­til­iz­ing effect of the liquid manure. In addi­tion, the liquid manure becomes almost odour­less.

Soil con­di­tion­er

After absorp­tion of the manure (solid-liquid sep­a­ra­tion), the solids are com­post­ed togeth­er with the stable bedding, which pro­duces valu­able black earth thanks to the high pro­por­tion of biochar. The incor­po­ra­tion of this black soil and the sta­bi­lized liquid manure into the soil improves the water reten­tion capac­i­ty, the filter per­for­mance and the aer­a­tion of the soil, which results in higher fer­til­i­ty. Soil acid­i­fi­ca­tion is pre­vent­ed and the leach­ing of fer­til­iz­ers and pes­ti­cides into ground­wa­ter is reduced.

The advan­tages at a glance:

  • Improved health and increased vital­i­ty of the animals
  • Increased feed effi­cien­cy
  • Increase in feed intake
  • Increase in weight
  • Strength­en­ing of the immune system
  • Increase in milk quality in cows due to improved udder health
  • Reduc­tion of diar­rhoea and dis­eases of the hooves and footpad
  • Increase in egg pro­duc­tion and egg quality in poultry
  • Improve­ment of meat quality
  • Decrease in mor­tal­i­ty rate
  • Sig­nif­i­cant increase in milk ingre­di­ents
  • Improved stable hygiene
  • Enor­mous odour reduc­tion of the liquid manure
  • Reduc­tion of costs for med­i­cines and vet­eri­nar­i­ans

Recent con­tri­bu­tions on feed addi­tives

Biochar in animal feed – an overview

The cur­rent­ly most promis­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty to use biochar in agri­cul­ture in an eco­nom­i­cal­ly and eco­log­i­cal­ly ben­e­fi­cial way is by cascade use in animal hus­bandry. This is the con­clu­sion reached by the authors Schmidt, Kammann and Gerlach in their book…

A farmer paints it black

Swiss farmers have been testing biochar for litter and as a feed addi­tive for years. The exper­i­ments will be sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly mon­i­tored within the frame­work of the inter­na­tion­al project “Car­bofeet”. Biochar is used there as a feed mate­r­i­al for reg­u­lat­ing diges­tion and pre­vent­ing…

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